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There was a time when I was a fairly decent resource for all that was ‘technology’…however, that was many, many moons ago. I like to think I am a bit above the curve for some things, and I am learning more every day, but I still am surrounded by people who are bona fide experts and call upon their knowledge when I know I am faced with a task that is beyond my reach.

That said, I do know what binary is and how it relates to computers. I find it fascinating when I see a software program or application that does some amazing things and realize that all a computer can really do is add 1 and 0.

With the beginning of a new year, I believe it deserves our personal consideration to be a bit more ‘binary’ as we look at our current efforts to build new business. Now, before we begin, please do not misinterpret what I am about to say as me believing all things are either black or white. This is only a test. Please ‘circle’ the appropriate response.

Q: Do you have a bona fide, you can reach in a drawer, put your hands on, marketing plan for 2011?
A: Yes or No

Q: Was your bona fide, 2010 marketing plan effective?
A: Yes or No

Q: All of your employees are aware of and support your marketing plan?
A: Yes or No

See the pattern we are developing here?

Sure, one could answer the above questions with, “Kind of” or “Sort of” but for this exercise, those responses do not compute. There is no better time than the beginning of a new year to be more decisive in what you will do to build new business for the next 12 months.

In closing, will you take a few moments to sit down, review your business development, sales and marketing strategy and see if you need to upgrade or are happy with the results of your current model? Circle one please.

A: Yes or No.

Remember, goals that are not written down are just wishes.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

www.cmconl.com

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Hey gang…we are giving the guest posting another shot as we received a lot of very good feedback from our first posting from Chris Hill, construction attorney. Next up is Kevin Kaiser who is here to share with us about the importance of a strong bonding program. Hopefully, you will read Kevin’s post and ‘bond’ with what he has to share. (Sorry, I could not help myself…Bobby)

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Being in charge of your company’s bonding program is an important task. And often the people in the company consider the surety program to be a simple tool that should be dealt with only when absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately for you, this is not the case. If you want to succeed easily, then it’s important to be proactive when it comes to your surety program. Things change all the time, so staying current really helps when it comes time to secure the bond for your next project. Plus, we can always improve things, right? A good thing today could be great tomorrow as long as you take the time to care and grow it. This is exactly what should be done in your bonding program and here are a few ways to go about it to make sure you get the surety bond you need for your company to succeed.

Can You Call Me?

Having solid communications with your bonding company can really improve the service you receive and speed up the process for both parties.

Talk to your agent. Tell them what you need, what you expect, and make sure they follow through. If the surety makes a decision about something that you don’t quite understand, ask them. Setting up meetings with your agent on a regular basis can really help make sure your bonding program is on the right track and progress is always being made.

Also, making sure that you answer when your agent contacts you will help them provide better service to you.

How Much Are You Worth?

A big indicator a surety looks at is your net worth. In other words, do you own more stuff than you owe? Sureties look at this because it shows whether your company is going to be able to turn a profit in the long haul. It also shows if you can lose a wing without the plane crashing, so to speak.

For example, when considering two companies, the surety will most likely bond the one with the most net worth, so it’s something that should be definitely be on the mind of everyone in the company.

Another thing worth building up is your working capital. It’s often seen much the same as net worth (it’s the difference between current assets and liabilities), though it covers a much shorter period, usually the previous 12 months. Find your company improving these two things and bonding companies will be much more likely to write bonds for your company.

Last Tips

We all want our company to grow. It’s perfectly logical. Unfortunately though, there are many companies that grow too fast and flop. That’s why it’s important not to grow too much in the eyes of your surety. A good tip is to not try to do anything more than twice the size of what your previous job was.

Being honest really helps. If you decide that you’re going to wait to tell the surety that the project is not going as expected, you can sure to be find difficulties down the road when trying to get a bond. Just keep open the lines of communication with your surety and let them know anything that might be related to your bond program immediately so it can be dealt with efficiently.

Follow these tips and your bonding program will no doubt improve, allowing your company to take on larger contracts and in turn, grow your business.

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Kevin Kaiser is a principal at SuretyBonds.com, the nationwide leader in surety bonds. You can connect with him on Twitter, @suretybond or Facebook.com/suretybond.

Feel free to contact Kevin directly: kevin{at}suretybonds.com.

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Today, I am taking a big ‘risk’ and letting Christopher Hill pinch hit as a guest blogger here on ‘Building New Business’. When I say taking a ‘risk’, I mean get ready for a real writer and excellent blogger!

I have gotten to know Chris in the past year and a half through his wonderful blog ‘Construction Law Musings’, via email and Twitter and his blog is the reason I did not want to enter any ‘Best Blog’ contest. I am a big fan of his and have learned a great deal from him and I am confident you will as well.

So, without further ado…Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Christopher Hill.

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As I left a mediation last week at 8:30 at night, I realized something that I knew all along. Mediation works.

Why does mediation work? For several reasons that I can think of.

The first, and likely most important is that lawyers are expensive. In most construction cases, we charge by the hour and those hours build up, especially close to a trial date. A mediated settlement can avoid this sharp uptick in attorney fees that always occurs in the last month before trial. Therefore the earlier the better.

The second is the flexibility to make a business decision. Commercial contractors and subcontractors are in a business, and they should be making business decisions. While one such decision can be to go to litigation; litigation is not always the best solution from a financial, or stress perspective. Construction professionals, with the assistance of construction attorneys, can come up with a creative way to deal with a problem and solve it.

While sometimes trial is inevitable (yes, even with a mediation), mediation allows for more options. At trial, someone wins and someone loses. A judge must pick sides and leave someone (and possibly both sides) unhappy. Then there are appeals, collections, and other expensive issues to deal with. Mediation allows compromise and allows the parties to agree to terms that the Court (or arbitration for that matter) could not give them. Add to this the opportunity costs of protracted litigation and the idea seems to be a no brainer.

The third is that a contractor can leave a mediation satisfied that they took part in the process and in controlling their own fate. Let’s face it, litigation is a foriegn world for most construction professionals. Once that call is made to their lawyer, the process can seem to be out of their hands, and in many ways it is. A good mediator can change that. While the compromise may not result in complete satisfaction, trial can, and often does result in dissatisfaction. At least with mediation, one can feel as if he was in some control and not on a headlong charge to oblivion without a way to put on the breaks.

Don’t get me wrong, mediation must be approached with a spirit of compromise and sometimes starting litigation is the only way to get there. If the parties aren’t committed to the process, no settlement can occur. Mediation does not work all the time, particularly if the parties present hurdles to the process.

In short, while litigation has its place and I am a construction attorney with the experience to pursue a case from start to finish, I would much rather help the contractors and subcontractors I represent continue to make money and avoid the stress, expense and monetary cost of litigation through contract review and mediation where possible. This is for one simple reason, mediation works.

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Christopher Hill is a LEED AP and construction attorney in Richmond, VA. Chris is a member of Virginia’s Legal Elite in Construction Law and authors the Construction Law Musings blog. Please feel free to contact Chris through his blog or on Twitter at @constructionlaw.

Please check out Chris’s Construction Law Musings Blog for more on Virginia construction law and other topics.

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Being a product of the south, I have heard and used more than my share of colloquialisms. I especially enjoy being able to sneak one in during a major presentation or group of ‘heavy hitters’ to see what, if any, reaction I get.

This past week, I was in the corporate office of a Fortune 200 company and was able to use one of my favorites, ‘Shuckin’ it down to the cob!’. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, ‘shuckin’ it down to the cob’ refers to shucking an ear of corn with so much enthusiasm that you are left with nothing but the cob. Translation: it means no frills, no extras, as bare bones of a proposition as one can find.

In this particular setting, we were negotiating a rather large contract for over 200 locations and the setting felt much like the stereotypical ‘buying a new car’ scenario with the price haggling bouncing back and forth like a Forrest Gump ping pong match.

It was close to ‘walking out’ time when I was able to remind the prospect that, regarding our price, we have ‘Shucked it down to the cob’. I was able to gain a double sense of satisfaction by (A) getting the business and (B) being able to use one of my favorite colloquialisms in such a setting.

This post is not so much about winning negotiations with corny, no pun intended, sayings but rather taking a look at one’s business, tossing out the fluff and focusing on that which is most important.

Here are a few ‘Shuckisms’ since my last post.

I had a meeting with a new client this week, and as we were reviewing the business development strategy we were putting together, the owner of the company expressed his excitement about all the new techniques we had gone over.

Shuckism: I had to remind him that results are the only thing that counts.

I was watching one of my new favorite shows, ‘Shark Tank’ and there was a candidate there seeking money for her store that catered to teaching children how to shop. If you are unfamiliar with the show, it is kind of like an ‘American Idol’ for entrepreneurs, seeking funding as opposed to a recording contract. After making a pitch for their business and stating an amount they are seeking oin exchange for ‘X’ percentage equity in their business, the ‘Sharks (Successful Venture Capitalists) either opt out or strike a deal.

It was obvious the lady had passion for her business but there really was not much of a model for success. All of the sharks opted out and while most were trying to be kind, one shark was brutally honest. He said, ‘Shut it down, I am the only one here who is your friend.”

Shuckism: There is a big difference between being in business and ‘playing business’.

A few years ago, we redid our kitchen. You know, the whole nine yards: granite counter tops, new appliances, cabinets, lights, hardwoods, etc. My wife did the budgeting as this was her project. I did give her a template to follow and she did indeed do a great job of researching all the costs.

When we reviewed the budget, I noticed she left blank the line marked ‘Contingency’. When I inquired, she assured me she thought of every cost and provided me her research to back up her claim. She was correct, her numbers for the labor costs and appliances and fixtures were spot on. I honestly could not think of any contingency so we left that blank.

Low and behold, when one is having a kitchen redone, the opportunity to cook in said kitchen is greatly reduced and the cost of eating out for three weeks could fall into your ‘contingency’ cost line.

Shuckism: If you are not sure, ask someone who has done it before. Measure twice/cut once applies to more than lumber.

There are so many great resources on the web…tons of great blogs, websites, discussion groups, e-newsletters, etc. If you are having challenges building new business…just ask.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Michael Stone author of the construction blog ‘Markup and Profit’ (www.markupandprofit.com). He is very much like me in that he truly enjoys helping people build new business. The same with Mark Buckshon, author of the new book, ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ (www.constructionmarketingideas.com). I would not be blogging if it were not for Mark. I know for a fact, both welcome inquiries and offer a lot of great information on their sites.

There are a lot of great resources out there that can help you build new business, you just have to take advantage of them. It may be the simplest small pearl of wisdom someone else shares with you that helps you land the next contract. Very much like trying to solve magic tricks, people often way over think the solution.

Shuckism: The answer is always ‘no’ until you ask.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

www.cmconl.com

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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WARNING: This blog does not have any pictures and may be considered lengthy by some.

I remember doing some channel surfing many moons ago and coming across George Carlin doing a bit about how all we really need in life is a ‘place for our stuff’. He went on to say that all life is about is finding a place for your stuff. Your house is really nothing but a place for your stuff with a roof. When you go on vacation, you take a smaller version of your stuff but you will still have a place for your stuff.

In the same spirit and thinking of Mr. Carlin’s wonderful piece on having a place for one’s stuff, I will contend that the parallel for business is not so much having a place for our stuff but, from Wal-mart all the way down to the sole proprietor, business is all about finding ‘shorter lines’.

Sure, we all have ‘stuff’ for our business. Where would I be without my laptop, my Blackberry, iPod player, copy machine, coffee maker, scanner and printers? These are merely tools to help me obtain what I truly desire – shorter lines.

Everything in business is a part of some type of line and we all want shorter ones. Think about it: You pull into the bank to make a deposit and there are four open drive-thru lanes. Which one do you pick? The one that has the shorter line. This also applies to checking out at the grocery store, going through security at the airport and any visit to your friendly Department of Motor Vehicles. We all want shorter lines.

In business, every single task we engage ourselves with involves a line of some kind with, I believe, the broader category being ‘time lines’. For each of the following, whatever process we choose, we cannot escape getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ via a line of time.

• Complete stranger to loyal client

• Zero revenue to our first $1,000,000

• Profit margin from breakeven to 15%

• One location to ten branch offices

• Three employees to 50 employees

I think you get the picture. Every business person worth their salt is quite aware of the different lines involved in achieving one’s goals but what separates those possessing shorter lines from the ones with longer lines, is the amount of preparation put into each goal.

How does one reduce the timeline from meeting a complete stranger to having that person as a loyal client from 10 months down to three?

How does one shorten that timeline to seven figures in revenue from three years to one?

The simple answer is planning.

This past week, I am happy to report that we moved four companies from our ‘Prospects’ folder to our ‘Client’ folder…each being an entity in the A/E/C marketplace. If I had to highlight one item as the most profound and common issue of every single company we have worked with it would undoubtedly be how amazed I am to find the number of companies who make their living designing or following a set of plans and specifications…yet do not plan for their business.

What would the timeline be to build a 10,000 SF retail store without plans and specs versus the timeline with plans and specs?

What would the timeline be to build a million dollar business without a plan versus having one?

The late great coach Paul “Bear” Bryant once said, “Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That’s why it’s is easy to beat most folks.”

The shortest distance between two points will always be a straight line. The best way to make that line shorter is to plan for a shorter line.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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I went to college in the 80’s when a couple of things happened in my life that are still with me today. The first, I became greatly fascinated and interested in the study of Philosophy and secondly, music changed.

I still study philosophy and from time to time still listen to some of the music from that era. (Don’t forget, though they 80’s did give us the music and haircuts of ‘A Flock of Seagulls’ we also got Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ and R.E.M.)

I went to school in Athens, at the University of Georgia, where, at that time, the local music scene was getting quite the attention thanks to The B-52’s, R.E.M., Pylon, Widespread Panic, The Normaltown Flyers and a few other bands.

I also worked in a record store (Remember those?) and played in a rock and roll band but so did, it seemed, every other person in Athens at that time. Music was, and still is, a very big part of my life.

I remember one day, at work, I was able to engage in two of my favorite subjects in one conversation, music and philosophy. On that day a co-worker who was really into Madonna, so much so to the point that she dressed like her just about ever day, commented to me that Madonna was the best singer in the world.

Not being the fan of Madonna as my co-worker, I challenged her to define what she means by ‘best singer’ in the world. This led to a music/philosophical discussion which included such topics as the ‘Definition of terms’ and argumentum ad populum (appeal to the populace).

Since my co-worker could not define what makes someone the ‘best singer in the world’ all she could do was point to a poll where Madonna was voted ‘Best Female Singer’.

I say all that to say this: Today, this blog was voted ‘Best Construction Blog’ in a contest hosted my Mark Buckshon’s ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ and the final results are that ‘Building New Business’ was voted at the top and I am truly flattered.

Amongst my ‘competitors’ are some really, really great blogs. During these past few weeks, I learned of some really good ones that were new to me and am happy that they ones I already were aware of, and have had links on my blog space for some time, did quite well. (See the ‘Links’ tab at the top of this blog.)

I was not that familiar with Michael Stone’s ‘www.markupandprofit.com’ until the contest. Michael has been blogging before I knew what one was! He has a great blog and it is full of wonderful information. Michael’s blog comes from the perspective of someone who not only has the formal construction education, but has the real world experience as well. I will definitely be adding his blog to my ‘list of links’.

I have known Mark Buckshon for five years and how we met makes for a great ‘networking’ story in and of itself. I read Mark’s ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ nearly every day and it is the top entry of my ‘Newsreader’. I did not know about this contest until I saw that I was leading it. I believe Mark summed it up quite well, in today’s announcement…I sell my ‘networking skills’ for a living…that is what I do and that is what I teach my clients.

Anyway, I am flattered each time I receive an email, comment or phone call from a reader. I am flattered to have been nominated and to have been able to participate in Mark’s contest and I am especially flattered to have been at the top of the voting. That said, do I believe this blog is the best construction blog? Well, let me say that I don’t believe Madonna was ever the best singer in the world.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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I know a guy that is never wrong. Ever! I kid you not, if he hits a curb pulling into the grocery store, it is the @#$% engineer’s fault for not knowing how to design a parking lot.

Now, before any clients or prospects get the wrong idea (sorry, I could not resist) allow me to explain what I mean when I say I love it when I am wrong…I am not talking about ‘not in accordance with what is morally right’ but rather ‘in error’.

The reason I enjoy being wrong is that, through the years, as I have often been wrong, I learn and grow from each experience where what I thought to be true, turned out not to be so.

Therefore, in order to share my “growth” experiences, here is a list of things where I was quite wrong.

Sushi – I use to think that the only reason anyone would eat sushi is so they could say, “I eat sushi.” That there was no possible way it could, in fact, be something somebody would want to eat.

I was wrong.

Napoleon Dynamite – The friend who told me about this movie, in my mind and at the time, way over-sold it. There was no way it could be as brilliant and funny as he described and, to be honest, the first time I watched it I was only ‘half wrong’. However, after the second, third, fourth and fifth times…I revel in its humor and brilliance. (Vote for Pedro!)

I was wrong.

Bob Chinn’s Crab House – I have many favorite eating establishments in Chicago but one in particular was a Polish restaurant on Milwaukee Avenue called ‘Irene’s’. Years ago, before children, I happened to be in Chicago on business at the same time Lane, my wife, was and we both wanted to go to our favorite place. At that time, her’s was a place called Bob Chinn’s Crab House. I was convinced here was no way I would enjoy my meal there as much as I would Irene’s. Naturally, I lost that argument and am glad I did.

I was wrong.

Nirvana and Green Day – I will lump both of these together because, no pun intended, they are the same song, different verses. The popularity of each band preceded anything I had heard from either regarding their music. I convinced myself that there was no way there could be an ounce of real talent amongst them before hearing one single song.

I was wrong.

Time Management Course – I enjoy telling people that I have found a way to make a fairly decent living out of my ‘healthy amount of OCD’. Back in the day, before Palm Pilots were the rage, we were all encouraged to sign up for a time management course with a local company and the ‘trophy’ from attending was being able to walk around with this HUGE leather, three ring binder.

If you can remember Dr. Suess’ classic, ‘The Star Belly Sneetches’ it was very much a local case of ‘those with stars and those without.’ I prided myself on being organized ‘without’.

Push came to shove and I did end up taking the course, getting my large binder and loving the processes I learned then and still use today.

I was wrong.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – I had a passing fancy in high school and college with Tae Kwon Do and Aikido. Then, about ten years ago, I started reading about this family from Brazil, the Gracies, who had developed their own form of jiu jitsu and my first thought was, there is no way this new martial art can be all that. In order to keep this blog offering from going on and on and on…I will just say that my passion for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has yet to find its match as far as items on my list of activities that are not work related.

I was wrong.

I could offer many more concrete examples of where I thought I knew the truth only to be shown otherwise. I am happy to report that the amount of time between such incidents has grown because I have learned to be more open-minded to new thoughts and ideas. I know this past year, I have learned a great deal that has helped build my business in ways I would not have thought possible…thanks in part to those gentle reminders of when I was wrong before.

I believe 2010 will be a better year business-wise than 2009…but I could be wrong.

If your sales are down or you have hit a sustained revenue plateau or even losing market share, what are you doing differently? What do you plan to do differently? Have you pulled out your business plan and reviewed it? Do you have a business plan or are you one of those who plan on one day having a business plan?

In today’s economy, as we try to build new business, is there any better time than today to look at new ways of doing things, listening to new ideas, trying new techniques, moving towards the 2.0 version of your company and/or yourself?

I don’t believe there is a better time than now to possibly prove ourselves wrong. I also don’t believe I am wrong about this one.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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